San Diego immediately reminded me of a sprawling, somewhat scrubbier Manly: especially all the gum trees. As we journeyed deeper, the cascades of prickly pear beside freshly-built shopping malls began reminding me of western Sydney, only here, everyone was so amazingly polite. Even the homeless, who do not speak or even make eye contact but hunch in the gravel, holding up signs that tell of hunger, misfortune and appallingly serious medical complaints. On the walk to the local Walmart, barely ten minutes away from the convention center, I saw more amputees than I have anywhere since the set of Mad Max : Fury Road
There was supposed to be a Mad Max mass çosplay happening on the Saturday, but of that I saw no sign.
In order to convey something of my convention experience without descending into a kalidoscope of three-coloured insanity, I shall focus on what events I attended day by day.Wednesday
"I'm going to use this bag to put bags in." - overheard in the Exhibit Hall
Having registered, we wandered around the convention center and completely failed to orientated ourselves. The airport was probably smaller than this place and rather less crowded. We trudged through acres of shiny, sterile whiteness with the kind of carpet that springs back from under tanks, Legends of Tomorrow
back-packs crinkling awkwardly around our shoulders. I swapped mine for a Big Bang Theory
, with a woman to whom it seemed to matter. If we did manage to locate the Ballroom or the signing area, it mattered not. There was nothing to tell us where the queues would start.
The Exhibit Hall itself was not an improvement, crammed as it was with people queuing for convention - only releases (figurines, plushies, insanity...). Finding ourselves more or less by accident beside the stall of artist Laurie Greasley, we bought a cute print of Jones holding a dead chest burster in his mouth and looking proud.Thursday
"There appears to be a Pokémon on my boobs. That's an odd place for it to be." - overheard, again, in the Exhibit Hall.
Today was not overly crowded, but we began to see Deadpools (of both sexes), Green Arrows and Harley Quinn. Quinn and the Joker (varying versions) seemed a popular cosplay for couples, although the Green Arrows were often accompanied by a Black Canary, a Huntress, or both. David strolled along, a dapper John Constantine (comic version), but I woke up late and frazzled.
In order to break ourselves in gently, we repaired to the indie film festival and.viewed "Hoss", a revisionist, post-apocalyptic western by Christina Boland. Followed by "No Touching", a hilarious but expertly choreographed horror spoof featuring stunt women Zoe Bell and Heidi Moneymaker in a haunted house. The kind set up for Halloween, where masked attendants might think it funny to grope the female customers... for about 3 seconds.
We hopped from the Image Comics panel to the World of Warcraft:Legion
preview (to me, it looks a lot like the old game did - you know, before the pandas), then we caught the "teaser" panel for the forthcoming Van Helsing
TV series (which does look fun, but also like someone saw Daybreakers
by the Spierig brothers and conveniently forgot about it). It was while we were heading towards the Indigo Ballroom (the first place we really had to queue) that we first saw the glistening, black vehicles, part limosine and part armoured personnel carrier, delivering their cargo of celebrities to guarded side doors.
We took the marvelously convenient free shuttle back to our hotel and ate steak at Dennys.Friday
"Is it just me, or is it a lot
hotter today?" - superb but wilting John Snow cosplayer, waiting for the shuttle. I'm afraid the general response consisted of witty variations on "Winter is coming."
Today, I woke up alone. David had gone in to the convention center at some obscene hour in order to queue for the tickets that would permit him to queue later for signings. From all reports, it was a complete fiasco and all he scored was Salem
, which neither of us have seen. And yet, we would attend a signing today.
But first, I must tell you that today, I entered the convention in top hat and tails, fish net stockings and boots. When I found David, we made the most dashing Constantine and Zatanna imaginable. At least, a couple of people recognized me. About the same number, over the course of the weekend, who said they liked my other hat.
As said, David spotted it when the schedule of signings you did not need tickets for appeared the week prior. 11.00 at the Simon & Schuster stall, Beryl Evans would be signing her new book, Charlie the Choo Choo
. Why did this lead to ourselves and a hoard of similarly lean and predatory types circling said stall like a pack of sharks from 10.00 am onwards? Because Beryl Evans exists nowhere except in the universe of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Her uniquely disturbing children's book prefigures the kà-tet's encounter with Blaine the Mono. So who was going to be at the Simon & Shuster stall and what exactly would they be doing?
We absolutely not permitted to form a queue until nearly 11.00 am, when a young lady emerged holding a sign reading "Start of Line". She was immediately swamped by the crowd who up till that moment had been pretending great interest in the stalls on the corner or that they were resting in the lounge. It was the closest thing to a mob I'd been in since, again, Fury Road. But alternating threats and promises, the staff massaged us into single file. The fellow ahead of me in line was cosplaying Where's Wally
, which demonstrates a kind of genius. The answer to the above questions turned out to be Beryl Evans (later research identified as her as an actress), signing copies of a disturbing children's book about a steam train. What we still don't know is why, although the upcoming Dark Tower film seems a good bet.
After this, we sidled into the last 10 minutes of a panel that seemed to be about William Shatner (who was not present) publishing a poem by Stan Lee (who was, for about five of those minutes). The room was not as crowded as you might imagine and we secured seats up the back. When the panel ended, we were able to improve our position substantially before the new audience entered. This turned out to be a reliable tactic we adopted during the remainder of the convention. We then watched the pilots for two half hour comedies. People of Earth
concern, respectively, a support group for alien abductees and the misadventures of an insurance assessor in the DC universe. I laughed louder at People
but then, I think deer heads are funny. But then it was time for, as far as we were concerned, the main event. Brian Fuller (who also thinks deer heads are... something), Neil Gaiman and a whole load of intriguing actors talking about the TV adaptation of American Gods.
I have now attended three live appearances by Neil Gaiman, spanning a clear decade. At each one, I have seen people come up, say how much they adore him and thank him for changing their lives. I believe this makes him the most authentic deity that was in the room at that point, even given the presence of Brian Fuller. He and his co-producer Michael Green were apparently referred to as "husband budget murderers" on this post - Hannibal project. Which looks really, really good.
The remainder of the day was passed in dining and playing a quiet round of Martian Fluux
in the Games Room, before The Australian Comics Explosion. Having to fly across the Pacific in order to discuss the original Fu Manchu novels with Chris Sequiera may seem a little excessive but, you know, if that's what it takes. Darren Koziol of Dark Oz was also there, with an exclusive SDCC edition of Dread
. Which we bought.Saturday
Now the crowds were getting serious. During an exploratory stroll through the Gaslamp District, we sighted the queue for the Game of Thrones
exhibition. An hour before opening, it ran along three and a half sides of a sizeable city block. Actually reaching the Convention Center, through the choke point of the crossing over the rail and tramlines, took considerable patience and tolerance of physical contact. There were many, many police and also, serious cosplayers.I don't mean the couple who had dressed their baby as a seedling Groot, though that was very cute. I mean the people who had spent months and thousands of dollars on their costume, and put in just that bit more thought. The Harley Quinn circa 18th century ball gown, for instance. The Snow White/Boba Fett mash up. The trio consisting of Circe in her full coronation ensemble, Meister Qyburn and Septa Unella (Confess! You three actually get on just fine!). The all-female group consisting of Jareth the Goblin King, Sarah in her ball gown, Hoggle and the owl. The owl. And does Master Chief fight anything resembling a Rancor? Whatever that was took three people to animate.
So we struggled through the crowd and back to the Indigo Ballroom to catch the Lucifer
panel. We used our technique, which led to us sitting through a quarter of an hour of The Power Puff Girls
. And a full session on Blind Spot
. And another on The Originals
, which we hadn't seen either. By the time our show finally started, we were shaking and slightly nauseous. But then the cast began to sing, to the instrumental track that plays over the titles.
"Crime solvin' Devil: it makes sense! (Don't overthink it.)"
And that's why we like it.
Doing this had chewed up most of the day, so after a morsel of steak and salad at the Social Tap (by far the nicest spot we found), we split up. David went to queue for the Ash vs Evil Dead
panel while I repaired to the Odysea Bar for the Horror Writers Association meet up. As I pushed through the crowd, I wondered how I was going to recognise a bunch of horror authors from their Facebook portraits. Perhaps, thought I, I should ask that fellow in the Dario Argento t-shirt?
Suffice to say, I spent the next two hours chatting with some lovely people, including Janet Holden (author of the Blood vampire series), David Agranoff (The Vegan Revolution... with Zombies
and many others), Dana Fredsti (the Plague Nation series) and convenor Kristina Grifant (her latest short, "Better Halves", is in The Lovecraft Ezine
#36). It was also a pleasure to meet David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All
. As you can imagine, the conversation was varied and interesting, but incorporating the traditional references to Australia's lethal wildlife (they were amused to hear that this now included Pokemon). My copy of Charlie the Choo Choo
was duly admired and everyone wondered how they were going to get hold of the new Jonathan Maberry collection now that Mysterious Planet had sold out.
Apparently, the Ash vs Evil Dead
panel was awesome.Sunday
I had already noticed a guy hanging round the convention center, dressed as Jesus. I had assumed he was cosplaying the Buddy Christ from Dogma
. But today, we walked through a gauntlet of street preachers, all assuring us that their God loved us and would send us to Hell if we didn't stop worshipping idols.
Cue the couple cosplaying the male and female Thor. And is it just me, or does Aquaman look remarkably like Hagrid these days?
Sunday was quieter and we were late, having spent the morning hunting for a usb adaptor in the Westfield across from our hotel. It was just as large as the one back home, only I do think that laying it all out on one level was cheating. We were nonetheless in time to see the art exhibition and get seats for our last string of panels.
"No Tow-Trucks Beyond Mars" was one of the highlights of our convention. Four scientist/engineers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were asked to speak about their "Captain Kirk" moment, referring to that character's famous speech beginning, "I have cheated death… " I personally think that, in the quotes department, Shonte J Tucker gave him a run for his money.
"Your bird is on fire. Please answer your phone."
She was referring to an incident during the testing of the Dawn space probe, which was fortunately resolved.
This was followed by an entertaining look at the history of video games, and then ("Because we're the last panel at the con…") a presentation by the people behind Roll 20, the online platform that facilitates the playing of actual tabletop RPGS. Then security came and made us leave.
One last, celebratory plate of steak and salad (and the Social Tap's excellent fries), and it was back to the hotel to pack. According to David Agranoff, San Diego takes about a week to return to normal. I spent our last night hounded by visions of homeless men and women carrying Big Bang Theory backpacks and dressed in partial superhero costumes, warming themselves over bins of burning swag.